The Escapists (iOS) Review

By André Eriksson 29.04.2017

Review for The Escapists on iOS

Whenever Team17 puts its name onto something you know you are in for a unique experience. The Escapists does certainly live up to everything players have come to expect from the unique style of humour and gameplay that has been iconic for the veteran British publisher. It takes prison life and creates an extremely detailed, yet free experience, for players to enjoy through in whatever way they feel like, within the loose boundaries of the world where all actions have results and consequences - all this in a glorious top-down 2D style. Cubed3 takes on the yellow suit and tries to break out of the prisons Team17 has prepared for the world.

Strict routines mixed with guards throwing insults, and mundane repetitive tasks - yup, prison life might sound like an extremely boring concept to form a video game around. At first it truly feels this way as all of these schedules seem to really limit the experience and prevent what seems to be the meat and goal of it all: the prison break. After a while though, the whole thing along with the planning truly starts to grow on the player until the point where the daily work shift becomes part of what makes the experience fun and entertaining, but let's not get ahead of time here.

It is important to stress that the first hour of The Escapists might be one of the most tedious hours spent in gaming getting to learn the system, and to understand the general purpose. It is very easy to get fooled into believing that most of the deal will take place during an epic escapist scene as taken from a grand Hollywood movie, which is heavily hinted at by the title of the game, and the extremely unpedagogical tutorial, which takes place during this long planned prison break.

Screenshot for The Escapists on iOS

It is understandable that the developer wants to show of the most exciting part of the game first, as there is a saying that if a game fails to hook the player within the first 30 minutes he/she is not likely to ever return to it. This is true, and The Escapists does a great disservice towards itself by having a tutorial that covers what the average person will do during like 1% of the gameplay. After this fast paced tutorial, the player character wakes up to realize the prison break was just a dream, and here is where the real thing begins, and frankly, it is nothing at all like the tutorial.

The first thing to do is to go to the morning roll-call where the guards will lecture the prisoners about their attitude towards them which is an excellent display of over exaggeration for humoristic purposes done right, and then it is time to go and eat breakfast where the prisoners will complain about how terrible the prison food is and after that there is some free time followed by lunch and then some work which is just as mundane as experienced by a "prison work," and after that there is some free time followed by training and a shower that does a perfect job at balancing the classical prison shower jokes with decency to create a humoristic yet non offensive atmosphere, followed by dinner, more free time and bedtime, just to rinse and repeat again and again.

Screenshot for The Escapists on iOS

It sounds fun, doesn't it? Yeah, it actually is quite the entertaining experience, but it is problematic and feels like a bore after the tutorial teasing about a big breakout, which, while actually the goal of the game is very unlikely, yet sometimes truly possible, to achieve early one during the game. The "meat" here is to prepare for it by living the prison life well, which is something that is a big contrast to the picture painted by the title and tutorial, especially since the latter does not help at all in understanding how to escape or even play.

Most of the first hour will be spent clumsily trying to get to the points where you are supposed to be, and maybe, just maybe, finish some quests for fellow prisoners for some coins or items that can be used to escape from the prison. After a while, it all will slowly start to grow on you, as you will slowly understand how to slightly break the rules without much consequence by doing it little at a time. After a while it will click that the free times can be used to get items to use to escape, that the roll-call are the perfect time to chat with fellow inmates and buy stuff, that the daily work can, with some tricks, be finished with extremely quickly creating more free time, and finally a plot to escape will enter the player's mind.

Screenshot for The Escapists on iOS

The problem is that the road to this enjoyment is long and rocky, and after the player has figured out the game enough to truly enjoy it, it will not last much longer. There will be some clever escapes, and there will be some discouraging failures, but after a while all prisons will quickly be escaped once the player knows how to play the game, and the joy of playing the system will go down, and they will quickly miss playing by the rules and do so for a while again just to figure out that it is a painful a lot like real life, and then go back to it.

The Escapists lets you escape to what most tries to escape to, the heavily over-scheduled reality. While it gives some psychological pleasure to break out of that system, the only reward is to get back into real life or into an even more heavily guarded prison with stricter schedules. You can never win with this game, and it is a clever metaphor for life, but not an entertaining one in the long run, and definitely not worth the initial annoyance of trying to figure it out.

Screenshot for The Escapists on iOS

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The Escapists is extremely clever. The messages it sends through its simple gameplay mechanics are beautifully laid out, and the humour shows a balanced usage of stereotypes in a way that makes it fun, yet non offensive… but it does often fail at being an entertaining game experience, and it promises things through the very irrelevant tutorial, which doesn't help at all. While escaping is the goal and what the player naturally desires, most of the time will be spent playing by the prison's rules. The break will be satisfying, but the satisfaction will be short lived when rewarded with a stricter prison, with even stricter schedules and rules, real life, or just the next prison that got unlocked.

Developer

Team17

Publisher

Team17

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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